Ray Johnson recently found long lost relatives after contacting the Australian Fromelles Project to search for his uncle, Private Darcy Franklin.
Ray Johnson recently found long lost relatives after contacting the Australian Fromelles Project to search for his uncle, Private Darcy Franklin. Max Fleet

Man meets family for first time

A BUNDABERG man has finally made contact with the family of an uncle who was killed fighting in France during World War I.

Ray Johnson said he knew his mother's brother, Darcy Herbert Guy Franklin, had fought in World War I but he did not know how or where he died.

After extensive research Mr Johnson discovered his uncle, who was only 18 when he disappeared in the mists of war, had a family he never knew about.

Mr Johnson's uncle left behind a girlfriend and a son.

Mr Johnson found his uncle had been sent to Egypt for training and was then sent to Marseilles, France.

The family first thought Mr Franklin had been killed earlier, but months later he rejoined his regiment and went on to fight on the frontline at the Battle of Pozieres and in two attacks in the Somme, where he was injured.

Mr Franklin was making his way back to a Red Cross station for treatment when he disappeared.

He was never seen again.

Mr Johnson said the problem with finding his uncle's family was that his son took the surname of his mother, which was Banks.

“We had all been looking for him under the wrong name,” he said.

Early this year Mr Johnson made contact with the family and found that although his uncle's son had died about eight years ago, he left a wife, who was now 92, and children.

Mr Johnson said his uncle's son died without knowing anything about his father.

But his widow recently came to visit Bundaberg with her daughter.

“She's still in good health, active, and a very pleasant woman,” Mr Johnson said.

He said she had had a good look around the city.

“She had a look where her father-in-law lived, where he was born, and at the monument in the CBD where his name has been inscribed,” he said.

Mr Johnson explained that the monument in Bourbong Street had four sides, and the name of each fallen soldier was inscribed on the side that faced the suburb he came from.

Mr Johnson said he had been to Brisbane to meet a couple of members of his long-lost uncle's family.

He said there were still three members of the family he had not met yet.

Mr Franklin has an unmarked grave at the Australian National Memorial in Villers-Bretonneux, France, and his name is on the Canberra and Bundaberg war memorials.

Mr Johnson has since found out his uncle's son, Noel, fought in World War II, his grandson in Malaysia and his great-grandson was also in the army.



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